Lance Zierlein's Z-report

Demaryius Thomas trade helps Texans now and later

Thomas will be called on to take Will Fuller's spot in the offense. Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The Texans sucked…. and then they didn’t. Like that, the Texans went from a three game losing streak to a five game winning streak and for the first time all season, the offense exploded with big performances on the ground and through the air.

With the way the AFC South is trending, it is very apparent that this is the Texans division to lose and they showed before the trade deadline that they have no desire to let that happen. With Will Fuller out for the year with an ACL tear, the Texans made a move that should help them this year and might be an important move for the near future.

The move for now

Will Fuller’s mere presence on the field is extremely important to the Texans offense because his speed alters how defenses can align against the Texans. When Fuller is on the field, safeties have to respect his speed and that forces safeties off the line of scrimmage which helps the running game. Fuller also has the ability to stretch the field and hit “chunk plays” down the field which is a key element in the Texans offense going from pedestrian to explosive.

While Demaryius Thomas doesn’t have the same speed as Will Fuller (and isn’t as good a player at this juncture of his career), he is still a big body with the ability to compete for the deep ball against smaller cornerbacks. It’s also worth noting that Thomas is a quality blocker in the running game and can help spring the wide-flowing run plays to his side.

The Texans had to make a move. They had to. They have no real wide receiver depth and they needed to find a respectable target that defenses had to respect opposite DeAndre Hopkins. Fuller wasn’t a big, physical receiver, but Thomas is and that could also help with the success rate in the redzone for the Texans.

The move for later

Can the Texans trust Will Fuller’s health? In order, starting from his rookie season, Fuller has missed, 2, 6, and now 9 games (by season’s end). Fuller isn’t a big guy so worrying about how he holds up to the physical nature of the game is obviously a concern. The bigger concerns might be that these soft tissue injuries are creeping in every year and can be re-aggravated.

We all love what Fuller has brought to the table as an explosive target and his substantially improved hands were one of the best stories of the year. By giving up a fourth round pick, the Texans appear to be ready to take on Thomas for the near future. Thomas will cost the Texans $14M next year if they want him to play out his contract. Or, they could look to give him a contract extension of two or three years and lower that base contract.

Don’t get me wrong, the Texans could let Thomas walk after this year, but I can’t see them giving up a 4th round pick for a rental player. With Thomas on the team next season, you have a strong four-man rotation with KeKe Coutee, Fuller, Thomas, Hopkins when all are healthy, and you still have a good two-man tandem when Coutee and Fuller are out again.

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It's all about Deshaun. Photo by Getty Images. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

The Texans moved to 3-7 following their 27-20 win over the Patriots. They are still without a permanent head coach and general manager. There lies the problem, and those problems will be settled this upcoming offseason. The new general manager and head coach will steer this franchise in the direction it needs to go in. Undoubtedly, Deshaun Watson will be at the forefront of what they do. How can he not be? You don't take a job like this with a quarterback like him and not consider him the centerpiece. What else would make one take either of those jobs? The salary cap hell the team is facing? The lack of draft picks coming off a terrible year? The faith ownership has placed in the NFL's version of Littlefinger?

Watson is the lone attraction to the flaming dumpster fire Cal McNair allowed to occur on his watch. If he's not careful, it could get worse and he'll find it hard to recover from. Watson signed an extension that'll keep him in Houston for another four years. He'll still be in his prime (barring any serious, career-threatening injury), and be eligible to hit the market as a free agent before he turns 30. So who do the Texans hire as head coach that can get the most out of Watson? Who can convince him to stay and re-sign after his extension is up?

The main cast of characters will most likely take better jobs. The Jets job is more attractive because of the cap space and draft picks. If the Falcons job opens up, so is it because of Matt Ryan and that offense. What coach/coaches would be interested in taking on this job that would be viable candidates given that the best of the best would take other jobs? Jayson Braddock and I tackled this topic not too long ago on Late Hits. Here are a few guys off the beaten path we felt were contenders:

Brian Daboll, Bills offensive coordinator: Daboll is a guy who, according to's Lance Zierlein, is openly campaigning for this job. The work he's done with Josh Allen has been remarkable. Allen has gone from a raw prospect with all the physical tools to an MVP candidate. Who wouldn't want a guy like that in Watson's ear guiding him over the foreseeable future?

Greg Roman, Ravens offensive coordinator: Roman has done wonders for Colin Kaepernick and Lamar Jackson. He helped Kaepernick reach a Super Bowl with the 49ers and turned Jackson into last season's league MVP. Given his history with athletic quarterbacks, he should be a natural fit and given full consideration.

Tony Elliott, Clemson offensive coordinator: Here's where it gets interesting. Elliott has been the OC (or co-OC) at Clemson since 2015. He has an established relationship with Watson and a proven track record as a coordinator of high-powered offenses in college. He's the type of hire that won't cost as much as some big names will, but might be able to provide the same spark.

Note that all three of these guys are offensive coaches. I fully understand that the defense is an issue and needs help desperately. I also understand that the previous two coaches were offensive guys as well. But Watson is your franchise quarterback and the most attractive piece in a pile of flaming dung that resides on Kirby. If anyone is going to take this job, it'll be because of number four. I know these aren't the sexy names most folks would want to hear, but these names are more realistic as candidates. None of them has head coaching experience. That fact cheapens their price tag and lends itself to them being long shots. A lot of this depends on the general manager hire. We'll get into that in another articel. For right now, dwell on this and let me know what you think.

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